Posts in Film Festival
FESTIVAL PREVIEW: The 10 best special presentations at the upcoming 55th Chicago International Film Festival

For the 55th year, the excellent and eclectic of national and international cinematic art descends on the Windy City for a fall conclave. The 55th Chicago International Film Festival begins on Wednesday, October 16th with the Opening Night bow of Edward Norton’s period crime drama Motherless Child and continues until October 27th with the Closing Night documentary premiere of The Torch chronicling the life of blues legend Buddy Guy. Norton’s film leads an eleven-day showcase of 21 different themed programs containing over 120 films.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Ad Astra

That throbbing level of staggering aura occurring parallel to poignant familial intimacy in Ad Astra is remarkably captivating. This is an accomplishment of contemplative science fiction that is felt in your core as much as it pours wonderment in your eyes. The high concept space opera vibes and the melancholic musings have been stretched and exploited further in other cinematic offerings within this fictional discipline. Nevertheless, the sharpness of execution here is something to behold with plenty of profundity to absorb and impress.

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EVENT: Season 9 of Asian Pop-Up Cinema in Chicago

Musicals, dramas, comedies, and thrillers are just some of the genres coming Chicago’s way from overseas during the ninth season of Asian Pop-Up Cinemas. For another month between September 10th to October 10th, the non-profit Sophie’s Choice film organization has brought another eclectic slate to the Windy City. Each season, Asian Pop-Up Cinema is the film series that cultivates American interest and understanding of Asian culture through movie storytelling.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: A Sisterhood of Signatures

One does not need millions of dollars to create an expression of personal passion. They need patience to see their vision through, a dedication to the project shared all involved, and the courage to put their work and themselves out there. Filmmaker Okema “Seven” Gunn harnessed all three of those values to make her short film A Sisterhood of Signatures and put them right back into the finished piece. She will proudly display her effort alongside the works of her inspirations and contemporaries as part of Chicago’s 25th Black Harvest Film Festival hosted by the Gene Siskel Film Center.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Blinded by the Light

Hell no, you don’t have to be a superfan of Springsteen to enjoy Blinded by the Light, but it sure helps. Even if The Boss is not your ideal vibe, the sprightly emotions on-screen cannot help but target and trigger your own matching passionate feelings for whatever you revere that answers the questions of Lesson #1. Following the affable and lovingly-composed musical worship recently achieved by Yesterday earlier this summer, welcome to your next toe-tapping crowd pleaser to close the summer of 2019.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Luce

The enigmas revealed by the spiraling escalation of manipulative confrontations are incredible in Luce. Through the masterful mystery of folding facades written by director Julius Onah and playwright/writer J.C. Lee of How to Get Away With Murder, there is a feverish anticipation of who’s going to turn, who’s going to crack, who’s going to fall, and who’s going to rise. The tension present is unpredictable and captivating.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Astronaut

Through the niches and comely library aisles of off-label modest independent cinema, talent can elevate material. Sometimes the material isn’t the best at this level. A high class performer can come in and buoyantly lift an effort that wouldn’t have a chance to register or resonate with less. Little movies like that are easy to root for and even better to discover and appreciate. Richard Dreyfus bringing his talented capacity to Astronaut is exactly one of those exemplars.

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SHORT FILM REVIEW: A Bad Feeling

Star Wars fans will quickly have their sensors triggered when they note the title of this short film from Charlotte Barrett and Sean Fallon. It is a nod to a running gag that is said as often in Star Wars films as the classic line “May the Force be with you.” The phrase alludes to a character’s audible dread and the heebie-jeebies warning of something awful, visible or invisible, on their horizon. The characters in those movie moments say it and mean it. In A Bad Feeling, the husband and wife central figures know their trouble, entirely feel it, but don’t announce their fears when they should.

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the first ever Rom Com Fest

Founded by entrepreneur and romantic comedy connoisseur Miraya Berke, the goal is celebrating the joy to be had and the art on display in this undervalued film genre. I think this is a smashing idea for a festival and I jumped at the chance to offer some remote coverage for its five-film competition slate. Compiled below are my capsule reviews for the movies I viewed in order from highest to lowest recommendation:

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CAPSULE REVIEWS: Feature films of the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival began May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre.  Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival in the country curated by film critics. For the third year in a row, Every Movie Has a Lesson will be credentialed to cover this fine spread of movie offerings.  Ranked in order of recommendation, here are my capsule reviews. Full pieces coming later when the respective films have their proper release:

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SPECIAL: Previewing the 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival

For the seventh consecutive year, many of the best domestic and international films on the festival circuit come to Chicago thanks to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The 7th Chicago Critics Film Festival opens May 17th at the famed and restored Music Box Theatre in the northside Lakeview neighborhood. Steaming towards a decade in successful existence, the CCFF remains the only film festival curated by film critics in the nation. This year, 25 feature films and two short film programs comprise their rich and ambitious offering slate

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MOVIE REVIEW: Vice

With more dismissive scowls than joking winks, thinly veiled outrage outweighs the drink-clinking humor in Adam McKay’s film presenting a biography of one of the least favored men in American political history. Hazy in some moments, hasty in others, and always provocative, Vice is easily the most polarizing film of the year. The movie is not unlike Cheney’s own aim with a shotgun, hitting and missing plenty with occasional collateral damage.

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MOVIE REVIEW: When Jeff Tried to Save the World

Not only has writer-director Kendall Goldberg fleshed out this excellent main character, she guides it through this plot with a matching sense imagination and earnestness. The nuances win in a story where heart and pragmatic approachability outshine any need for shock value and raunch. The smart and spot-on tonal mix of such simplicities deserve to be appreciated.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Favourite

The Favourite has a wider scope and warmer temperature than Lanthimos’ previous two films. His aim for deadpan delivery highly on display last year in The Killing of the Sacred Deer bends to occasionally include pulse-quickening emotions and diaphragm-shaking chuckles. The Favourite says that “love has limits.” The same can be said for Lanthimos. He is the exact definition of an acquired taste. The brilliance is there, with much to love and plenty still to rebuke.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Roma

That unfortunate fate could not be farther away from a film like Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma. For all of those possible extrapolations of commitment and dedication taking place within the craft of filmmaking, you may never, not this year and maybe several more after, see a more intimate artistic expression than this powerful and personal film. To the man making Roma, this film is special. To those viewing it, this film is important. To the art it serves, this film could be a potential masterpiece.

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Guilty

Played in nearly real-time, The Guilty jolts the audience with the fits and spurts of the received and dropped calls. Some are dangled snippets and others linger with impact. Their rising and falling tensions are shrewdly and sharply written by director Gustav Möller and TV writer Emil Nygaard Albertsen. Their unforgiving suspense create an engrossing and choking mood of unknown and mounting dread. The Guilty is as smooth and taut of a 85-minute feature as you’ll see, no matter the language.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Widows

Kicking something flaky and flimsy like Ocean’s 8 to the curb, the Shame and 12 Years a Slave Oscar winner has assembled a dauntless ensemble cast lead by dynamic females. Rooted in the thinly and sinfully fabricated dermal and subcutaneous layers of Chicago, Widows wields an effeminate brawn and sly intelligence working to stoke a masterful slow burn. The film’s bold gravity constricts us wonderfully for one of the most visceral crime films of recent memory and one of the best films of 2018.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Silencio

Within in the 98 minutes of Silencio, this little dual-language flick accomplishes what few high concept indie films have been able to achieve with their wildly audacious ideas. It builds a bridge, not a wide and sturdy one, mind you, but a successful structure nonetheless, from the nonsensical to the profound. That is a normally a huge canyon of belief and consideration to cross.

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